The massive earthern mound contain cut stone blocks, round Amalaka in four pieces, broken Neel chakra in stone, which once adorned the temple top and other sculptures of historical importance. These antiquities were unearthed from the mound by Trilochan Bhoi, a villager of Kondh origin, almost single handed over a period of one year. Bhoi mentioned to me during my visit on 29th June 2004 that three handless stone icons of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra were recovered from the mound and are presently kept in an adjoining hut for worship. This discovery confirms the theory of construction of the oldest temple for the holy trinity by the Somavamsi king Yayatikeshari ninth century A.D. as mentioned in Madala Panji, the temple chronicle of Puri Jagannath temple.
It may be relevant to mention that this author in one of his earlier visits to this temple site in 1985 had discovered a big stone slab engraved with “Astadala-Padma” design, besides stone amalaka and other temple sculptures scattered all around. He had also come across a huge stone block with the image of “Anant Sayana Vishnu”. This ancient sculptures since been shifted to a place on the right bank of river Tel, a tributary of Mahanadi. It seems, many other sculptures like the doorjamb with vase folige motif, Gajalaksmi and Nabagraha panel etc. were shifted from this site to a neighbouring village Deulgudi about seventy years back. This is an extremely potential site which calls for a planned excavation by the State Archaeology.
With the discovery of this anthropoid forms of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra cast in stone, intriguing questions may be asked about the origin of Jagannath cult and present wooden form of holy trinity worshipped in the Jagannath temple of Puri. For the first time we get the anthropoid form of Jagannath sculpted in two panels on the walls of the famous 13th century Sun temple at Konark. In these panels, Balabhadra is shown as a Shivalinga and Subhadra has been depicted as Mahishamardini Durga. In one of these two stone panels, presently kept in the National Museum Jagannath is flanked by Durga on his right, whereas in the stone panel on the temple walls of Konark, he is flanked by Durga on his left.
Positioning of Holy Trinity is not so relevant but depiction of Siva linga, anthropoid form of Jagannath and Durga depicted in both panels of Konark conclusively prove that during the reign of the Ganga king Narasimhadeva I (circa 1238-1264 A.D.) builder of Sun temple, the three images of Holy Trinity were not worshipped in the present form. In the Pancharatra philosophy, Balabhadra Samkarsana is identified with Siva. Bramhapuran (23-132) states that Rudra is known as Halayudha. Scholars like Eschmann, Kulke and Tripathi have further suggested that Balabhadra could have been worshipped as Ekapada Bhairava in the remote past, since Ekapada Bhairava is represented in the uniconical form as single-legged. The portion of the image below waist is shaped like a tree-trunk or a pillar. Such an uniconical figure of Ekpada Bhairava could be seen as rock-cut figure on the monolithic rock in a hillock called Bhairo Pahad situated about 5 kms to the south of Titlagarh town in the upper Mahanadi valley, dated to eigth century A.D.
Legend has it that king Indradyumna of Malava had a dream wherein he saw Purusottama Narasimha being worshipped in a form, over whose head snake Sesa had spread his hood. This was indicative of the association of the divine snake Ananta Sesanaga with Purusottama Narasimha. Bhagawata Purana (v.25.2.3) has identified Balabhadra as Ananta – Samkarsana Balabhadra, who has been elevated to the status of elder brother of Purusottama.
Anncharlott Eschmann, Hermann Kulke and Gaya Charan Tripathi are of the view that the uniconical figure represented in Konark was taken over from the Saiva model of Ekapada Bhairava, the Ugra aspect of Siva. They have further assumed that the Jagannath figure developed from the identification of a tribal deity represented as Narasimha in the form of a wooden post or pillar. In fact, Narasimha came out of a pillar to kill the demon Hiranyakasipu. In the upper Mahanadi valley a temple was built by queen-mother Vasata of the Panduvamsa some time in the 8th century A.D. at Sripura, the capital city of Kosala for worship of Purusottama Narasimha. Anantasayana Visnu image has been carved on the door-lintel of the entrance to the sanctum of this temple, which is known as Laksmana temple at present.
Goddess Subhadra has been identified with goddess Khambesvari ( the Goddess of the Pillar or Post) whose worship was prevalent in the upper Mahanadi valley in the 5th-6th century A.D. as recorded in the Teresingha copper-plate charter of king Tusthikara, discovered from the Teresingha village in Kalahandi district in 1947.
Goddess Subhadra is worshipped in the Bhubaneswari mantra in the Jagannath temple at Puri. It is pertinent to note in this context that goddess Samlei, enshrined in the temple at Sambalpur is also worshipped in the same Bhubaneswari mantra. The uniconic form of goddess Samlei like the present anthropoid form of Subhadra seems to be identical. Is Samlei a corrupt form of the name Somalai or Samalei, a deity of the tribal origin, initially worshipped by the tribals and later absorbed into the Hindu fold by the Somavamsis, who were ruling over Orissa from the upper Mahanadi valley first from Suvarnapura and then from Yayati Nagara in around 9th-11th century A.D. Another fact comes to mind that goddess Bhagabati Panchambari Bhadrambika was enshrined at Pattana Suvarnapura (present Sonepur town) during the rule of the Somavamsi king Mahasivagupta Yayati-II Chandihara (Ruling Period: Circa 1024-1060 A.D). Is goddess Bhadrambika converted into Subhadra?
The concept of Harihara worship can also be found in the upper Mahanadi valley as early as the 8th century A.D. when the twin temples of Gandharadi were built by the Bhanja king Ranabhanja of Khinjlimandala, one dedicated to Nilamadhava Visnu and the other to Siddhesvara Siva. Most probably during the time of Yayati II the Somavamsi king, Panchambari Bhadrambika was also worshipped along-with Visnu and Siva on one platform.
But if we take into account the recent discovery of the stone images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra in the uniconic anthropoid forms then the sculptural findings from this Tentelkhunti mound allure us to date the sculptures of this site to the early Somavamsi period and probably to the reign of Yayati-I (Circa 885-925 A.D) . In that case it can be surmised that in these forms the Jagannath triad were worshipped in the upper Mahanadi valley in the 9th century A.D.
Like the anthropoid forms of the Jagannath triad, Daksina Kalika in the similar form and also made of stone has been discovered from the same mound. In the Mahanirvana Tantra, Jagannath has been identified with Daksina Kalika. ( Tara Saksyat Sulapani Subhadra Bhuvanesvari / Niladrou tu Jagannatha Saksyat Daksina Kalika // ).
A stone Chakra (Nilachakra) found in this site is also of much significance. A huge stone- block with Visnu Anantasayana is also found here. The earliest Visnu Anantasayana panel is found fitted to the door-lintel of the entrance to the sanction of the Laksmana temple at Sirpur, which is dated to the 8th century A.D. The Visnu Anantasayana panels are found widely in the upper Mahanadi valley of Orissa in places like Kusang, Ranipur Jharial, Kagaon, Sonepur, Vaidyanath and Charda, all in the undivided Balangir district, which was the seat of a civilization during the early Somavamsi period in the 9th-10th century A.D.
Traditional account credits Yayati-I with the construction of an earlier temple of Purusottama at Puri. In that case, he might have installed the stone image of the uniconic anthropoid form symbolising Lord Jagannath in the temple at Puri, which he had already done earlier at Tentelkhunti, the site under discussion, situated in his original home land Daksina Kosala. Then during the time of Yayati-II this anthropoid form of Jagannath might have been worshipped alongwith Sivalinga, symbolising Siva and Durga symbolising Sakti, upto the time of the Ganga king Anangabhimadeva III and also during the reign of his son Narasimha-I, the builder of the Sun temple at Konark.
Now the question arises, when were the three images made in the present uniconic anthropoid forms? In this context, learned scholar late Dr. Satyanarayan Rajaguru’s view assumes significance. According to him, the anthropoid features of the stone images in the temple at Puri were not made of wood upto the rule of Narsimhadeva-I (circa 1238-1264 A.D.). They were worshipped in the similar forms as depicted in both the stone panels from Konark, when Baladeva – Ekanamsa – Krisna trinity were installed and worshipped by Chandrikadevi, the widow sister of Ganga king Narsimhadeva-I in the sanctum of the Ananta Vasudeva temple built on the bank of Vindu Sarovara at Bhubanesvar.
It is a known fact in history that during the reign of the Ganga king Anangabhimadeva – III (circa 1211-1238 A.D.), the century old Ganga – Kalachuri war ended in favour of the Gangas, as a result of which the Sonepur-Sambalpur region was annexed to the Ganga empire. This victory could be achieved due to the generous gesture of Anangabhimadeva-III, who gave his daughter Chandrikadevi in marriage to a Kalachuri prince Paramardideva. This Paramardideva became the General of the royal Ganga army during the reign of Narasimhadeva- I, the son and successor of Anangabhimadeva- III.
Thereafter the Gangas of Utkal-Kalinga joined hands with the Kalachuris of Tummana-Ratanpur (Chhattisgarh) in fighting against the Muslim forces of north-eastern India. Learned historians like late Prof. N.K. Sahu, Prof. J.K. Sahu and Prof. P.K. Mishra are of the view that Narasimha Deva-I (circa 1238-1264 A.D.) was powerful enough to engage himself in a war with the Muslim ruler of Lakhnauti in Bengal, who was defeated by him. Dr. Satyanarayan Rajaguru is of opinion that Narasimhadeva-I was victorious due to the great valour of the tribals (Savaras) who then formed a large section of his army, and therefore, to appease them the king might have installed such anthropomorphized figures of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra in a Hindu temple.
But the recent discovery of not only Jagannath, but all the three deities of the Jagannath triad in a temple ruins belonging to the 9th century A.D. leads us to believe that the Holy Trinity of Puri were being worshipped in the anthropoid forms, (with only the handless torso and having the face) right from the ninth century A.D. in the ancient Daksina Kosala region, which was predominantly inhabited by the Savaras. Such an image of Lord Jagannath was also simultaneously installed by king Yayati-I at Puri.
The Muslim rulers of Lakhnauti in Bengal were constantly at war with the Ganga kings of Utkala even after the reign of Narasimhadeva-I and during the time of Bhanudeva-III (Reigning Period : circa 1352-1378 A.D.) Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq of Bengal attacked Baranasi Kataka and defeated the Ganga king in war. The Muslim invader destroyed the temple of Lord Purusottama built by Anangabhimadeva-III at Baranasi Kataka (present Cuttack). It is quite possible that due to this destruction, the stone images of the Jagannath triad as depicted in the stone panel of the Konark temple were taken away to some unknown place in Sonepur (Sunapura) region and later were again installed in the temple at Puri. Following the tribal traditions, all three images were made of wood perhaps convienorce of shifting as and when required in case of such attacks. The construction of a temple by the Somavamsi king Yayati for the worship of the Great Lord (Jagannath) has found mention in the temple chronicle Madala Panji (Prachi Edition, p.6). Since we find the mention of Jagannath in the introductory verse, ( Pranipatya Jagannatham Sarvajina-vararchitam / Sarva Buddhamayam Siddhi Vyapinom Gaganopamam // ) and four other verses of the text Jnyanasiddhi by Indrabhuti, the king of Sambala (present Sambalpur) who was ruling some time in the 8th century A.D., the origin and antiquity of Jagannath should be traced to the Sambalpur – Sonepur region.
The Bhagavata cult of Vaisnavism held its sway in the upper Mahanadi valley, right from the time of the Nala king Skandavarman (Reigning Period : Circa 480-515 A.D.) who was ruling the present undivided Koraput-Kalahandi region of Orissa and the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh state. As soon from his Podagad Stone Inscription he installed a foot-print (Padamula) of Visnu. The occurrence of Vasudeva in the epigraphic record of the Nala king testifies the prevalence of Vasudeva cult in the Nala domain and its amalgamation with Visnu in the Vaisnava philosophy. Dr. C.B. Patel has rightly pointed out that ‘Vasudeva Krishna cult which is resplendent in Indian sacred literature was a very popular creed since the ages. In the Mahabharata he is described as an invincible fighter god, a guide and philosopher. Skandavarman, a valiant warrior of his age was a worshipper of Vasudeva, who appears to have been inspired by his personality.’ In this record, Vishnu (Hari) has been called Vijayo Jeta which epithet find mention in Verse- 16 of the Visnu Sahasranama.
The Nala were replaced by the Sarabhapuriyas in the upper Mahanadi valley some time in the 6th century A.D. In the upper Mahanadi valley of Orissa, strong royal patronage was given to the Bhagavata cult of Vaisnavism by the Sarabhapuriya kings, who ruled this part of the present Orissa around 5th-6th century A.D. All the rulers of the Sarabhapuriya dynasty were devout worshippers of Visnu. Learned scholar Dr. S.P. Tiwari is of opinion that they were the followers of the Pancharatra system of the Bhagavata cult, which accepted Krisna Vasudeva as the supreme deity. Like the Gupta kings, they designated themselves as Parama Bhagavatas. The Gupta emblem of Garuda flanked by Samkha and Chakra is found embossed on the repousse gold coins of kings like Prasannamatra, Mahendraditya and Kramaditya of this dynasty. Similarly, the standing figure of the Vaisnavite goddess Laksmi, flanked by two elephants was the royal emblem of the Sarabhapuriya kings, as this emblem is found in the seals attached to the rings of their royal charters.
Vaisnavism flourished in full swing during the reign of the Panduvamsi kings of Sripura, succeeded the Sarabhapuriyas in the upper Mahanadi valley sometime in the second half of the 6th century A.D. Queen Vasata, the mother of the Panduvamsi king Mahasivagupta Balarjuna was a great devotee of Lord Purusottama Narasimha. In the upper Mahanadi valley brick temple tradition in the same pattern of the Bhitargaon brick temple of the Gupta period was popularised during the Panduvamsi rule in the 7th- 8th century A.D. Queen Regent Vasata built a brick temple for worshipping Lord Purusottama Narasimha in the capital city of Sripura, which is presently known as Laksmana temple. This temple is built in bricks although the gateway of the Garbhagriha is made of stone, on which Dasavataras and Krishnalila themes are carved. A Bhogasayana – murti, which is also called the Anantasayana Visnu is carved on the Dvaralalatavimba of this gateway. This type of image of Anantasayana Visnu is also found carved on the Dvaralatavimba of the Garbhagriha doorway of the Rajivalochana Visnu temple at Rajim. Sirpur and Rajim, both places are situated in the Raipur district of the present day Chhattisgarh. When the Panduvamsi rulers left Sripura, their capital city due to the menace of the Kalachuris of Dahala sometime in the first half of the 9th century A.D., they migrated down- stream of Mahanadi to the area around Balangir- Sonepur-Bargarh-Jharsuguda-Sambalpur region of Orissa and subsequently established themselves as Somavamsis at Suvarnapura, the present Sonepur town on the right bank of river Mahanadi around 850 A.D.
The Somavamsi king Mahabhavagupta Janmejaya (850-885 A.D.) through his Sonepur copper-plate charter donated a village named Gettaikela situated in the Luputura Khanda of Kosaladesa in his 17th Regnal Year to the illustrious Kamalavana Merchants’ Association situated in Suvarnapura, which in turn bestowed the same village to two temples, one of Lord Kesava and the other of Lord Aditya for charity, oblation and offerings as well as for repair of both the temples.
Mahabhavagupta Janmejaya Svabhavatunga’s son and successor Mahasivagupta Yajati has been been compared with the divine Visnu who killed the epic Chaidya or Shishupala in the Rajasuya Yajna performed by Yudhisthira.
The Gopalpur plates of the 10th Regnal Year of the Somavamsi king Mahabhavagupta I Janmejaya records the grant of a village “Jollamura-grama” of Lupattora-Khanda to Bhatta Sadharana, who instead of keeping the village, made over the same for the maintainance of a temple, built by him at Suvarnapura, enshrining god Jalasayana Narayana Bhattaraka. The text of this grant concludes with the Vaisnava Mantra: Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
The Gond tribals, who are predominantly inhabiting central India (Gondwanaland), stretching from Orissa to Maharastra, worship two major gods called Bad Deo (Dev) and Jangha Deo (Dev). Are they Bad Devata or Balabhadra and Lord Jagannath ? If so, then the tribal origin of these two gods can be established.
In the context of historical findings and inscriptions one could safely infer that from the days of Nala Kings of Koraput-Kalahandi rigion (said to be the descendents of Nishada king Nala of Nala-Damayanti epic fame) i.e. 4th-5th century A.D. till the advent of Somavamsis, upper Mahanadi valley has witnessed a rare churning of the tribal cults of Ekapada Bhairava, Khambeshwari, Maheshwari, Bhubaneshwari and above all Narasimha, Purushottama, Tantrik God Jagannath of Vajrayana. This amalgamation has crystalised on the cult of Jagannath, literally the Lord of universe. Thus we would see that the period from the 5th to the 9th-10th A.D. was epoch making when the concept of Holy Triad evolved absorbing the tribal and non-tribal religious beliefs leading to harmony and peaceful coexistence.